Mac Game Mode is about to make Apple gaming much better

Apple Mac Game Mode WWDC 2023

During the WWDC 2023 keynote yesterday, Apple announced a whole host of ways the company is trying to entice games and gamers onto the Mac, with the hope of luring people away from PC. One of the big features coming soon as part of the macOS Sonoma update is Game Mode for Mac.

This push started four years ago, with the introduction of Apple Arcade, which works across iPhone, iPad and Mac. But now, as well as mobile-friendly games, Apple is starting to get AAA titles on board to encourage gamers to pick up a MacBook Air or Mac Studio instead of a PC gaming laptop or desktop.

Here’s everything that’s coming for gamers in MacOS Sonoma later this year, plus what’s available now for developers wanting to prep games for the platform.

Game Mode for Mac boosts performance

Game Mode seems to be the mode to watch out for on TVs, computers and monitors these days, with it showing up and being highlighted on more and more devices. Though it does mean slightly different things depending on the manufacturer.

On Mac, Game Mode means doubling the Bluetooth sampling rate to reduce latency for wireless controllers “significantly”, ensuring the game is prioritised on the CPU and GPU, and giving “even smoother and more” consistent frame rates.

Bluetooth latency is a huge problem when it comes to games for both controllers and audio, which is why most game consoles use 2.4GHz connections (basically Wi-Fi) because it’s more stable and information transfers much faster. Because Apple doesn’t make controllers that can do that (yet), gamers have to rely on the Bluetooth connections built into Xbox and PlayStation controllers to connect to their Macs. Halving that latency would go a long way to make the Mac more gamer-friendly.

Apple Game Mode AirPods and DualSense controller

Consistent and higher frame rates matter because it dictates how smooth the game looks and how fast you can register motion. This is especially important in games where reaction times really matter.

These are potentially significant upgrades and show that with MacOS Sonoma, Apple is really trying to become known as a place to play, and putting a lot of money where their hope is. Given the impressive graphical performance of Apple Silicon and M1 and M2 Macs meaning that you don’t really need a separate graphics card to have a good experience, it does make a lot of sense for the brand to move more heavily into gaming now. It also potentially opens games up to people who might need to have a Mac for work or school and now don’t need a second device to play.

Needless to say, the new 15-inch MacBook Air in addition to the M2 Ultra Mac Studio and Mac Pro devices have plenty of power for gaming.

Hideo Kojima is also here + other games coming soon

Of course, all the game modes and fancy silicon mean nothing if there aren’t any games to play. Acclaimed developer Hideo Kojima came on stage during the keynote to talk about bringing Death Stranding: The Director’s Cut to Macs later this year, and also say that he’s been a Mac fan (and Mac gamer) since 1994.

This is part of Apple’s wider push to encourage developers to bring their games over to the platform. Alongside the Metal 3 graphics API, there will be a new game porting toolkit for developers to see how well their game could run on Mac. At the moment, the first stage of the porting process takes months, and this new tool reduces that to days.

Then, there is another tool in Metal that simplifies converting the code to be compatible with Apple Silicon, further reducing that once laborious task down to days or weeks from months or years. After that, developers can focus on investing a lot of time and money into quality testing, which is the third stage of the process.

So, there are still some barriers for smaller studios to bring their games to the Mac, but those barriers have been lowered significantly, and it’s certainly a more attractive proposition for larger studios with more resources.

The benefit to developers is that there is now a potentially huge install base of devices, given games made for Apple Silicon are compatible with both M1 and M2 Macs as well as iPads.

In addition to Death Stranding, Apple also announced the following games coming to Mac:

  • Stray
  • Fort Solis
  • World of Warcraft: Dragonflight
  • Resident Evil Village: Winters’ Expansion
  • The Medium
  • Firmament
  • SnowRunner
  • Disney Dreamlight Valley
  • No Man’s Sky
  • Dragonheir: Silent Gods
  • Layers of Fear

Some of those games (like No Man’s Sky and the award-winning Stray) had already been announced, but seeing them all together on a list seems like a pretty solid line-up. Pair that with reportedly roughly 100 million Apple Arcade subscribers, and now seems like a pretty good time to be a Mac gamer.

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Alice Clarke attended Apple WWDC 2023 in Cupertino as a guest of Apple Australia